Today marks the beginning of our third week here in the Philippines. This morning before I left home, I overheard our host’s niece singing “How far I will go” from Moana. Knowing that I have to leave this place soon, I pondered how far I have finished my tasks for this course. I remember that both me and Tom were worried in the beginning because photo studio business is fairly new to us.
We understand it’s every photographer’s dream to have his own photography business and Bernardo has successfully been able to have his own. In addition to this, his wife and occasionally his children, help managing the studio. Currently the studio offers a wide range of photography services and souvenir printings. It has more than 2000 members in its Facebook Group. Being the only Photo studio in Jagna, Regatuna can be said to have a fairly good business.
But what comes next?
As a professional photographer, it is natural for Bernardo to desire better and advanced photography tools. With the current business situation, it will take some time until he saves up enough for the studio business to spend on his new equipments. When talking about equipments, it is not just DSLR cameras that he is considering. He wants better studio lighting as well.
For some photographers in developed nations, they would probably consider using a personal credit card to purchase on new photography tools.
In a developing country, it does not work this way.
If Bernardo gets government loan to renovate his business, he will bear a high interest rate every month until the loan is paid off. Food may be cheaper in a developing nation than developed countries. Products like DSLR cameras are the opposite. They are usually sold at a higher price.
Therefore we avoid giving advices that involve new fancy products for photography. Instead we focus on how to improve and add new services without costing the studio much.
Just like most of our classmates, we looked whether the studio has an accounting system. Carmen takes charge of accounting but admits she does not record everything in the ledger she has. The calculation must have become redundant for her because in some parts of the book, there were just records with no total. After spending some time to observe the studio, we also realized Carmen is almost always on her computer. There came our first suggestion. We strongly recommended Carmen to use Excel for record keeping. There are two reasons why she is totally capable of this. Firstly, she knows the basics to use Excel (she is the creator behind all photoshopped organizational charts!!). Secondly, she is an accountant by training. All we had to do was create a ready template and showed her the benefits of using Excel.
Screenshot of our simplified template
We also looked through Regatuna’s current services and strengths. The most popular are ID photos, outdoor shoots, and organizational charts. We recognized that not much was going on with indoor photoshoots. People usually come for indoor portraits on very special occasion only, for example, graduation or pageant competitions. We also noticed that in the afternoons and the evenings, Carmen is usually available. We thought that promoting casual indoor shoots can bring in more revenues and we came up with the decision that the studio should provide fun indoor photo shoots that targets towards teenagers and young adults.
Pageant shots by Regatuna (Credit: Facebook Group of Regatuna Studio)
When we showed our HKU friends’ instagram photos of indoor shoots and Carmen showed enthusiasm. Regatuna has already been popular for photography among local residents. It provides quality services at an affordable price. It has a physical studio space. Bernardo, Carmen and his son can use photoshop well. The new fun indoor shoots will require some props, new backgrounds and layouts for pictures, and a pinch of creativity. If this service becomes popular, Regatuna studio may become the new playground for social media savvy teenagers and young adults.
Public images from Phocus Studio in Hong Kong
Another area we would like to help improve is with promotional activities. There are specific months the studio earns well and there are slow seasons where nothing much goes on except ID photos. The studio currently provides services that are not popular yet in Jagna. Therefore, we want to create seasonal promotions for different services. An example will be promoting personalized mugs and indoor photoshoots for couples in February for Valentine’s day.
Personalized mugs from Regatuna Studio
As a person who has managed the Regatuna for 21 years, Carmen has a bigger plan in her family business. She wants to incorporate the frame business in Regatuna studio. Except doing some research on the possibility of small-scale operations, there is not much we can help with this plan in a short time of three weeks. If you ask me how far have I reached, I would reply only a small step further considering I am just a student who just started to acquaint this town and business just two weeks ago. But we are very delighted that she was interested in our humble ideas and appreciated our effort. We hope our ideas and the implementation of them will profit Regatuna studio and provides exciting services for the local residents.
(Update) Our selfie with Carmen, Lea and Bernard
Just like I mentioned above, Bernardo is living the photographer dream. But this is not where he stops. A lot of people fantasize about how owning a small business will make them prosperous without having to work hard. This is not true, at least in Jagna. Owning a business means you have to take initiative and work hard to keep it growing, especially if it is something you truly love. In the case of Bernardo, he has planted the seed for photography business and is enjoying the fruits of it. He likes nurturing and keeping this business growing but is not sure which changes to feed. He can instantly profit by selling this but he won’t because he loves it. Plus, Bernardo and Carmen has a bigger plan – they are going to give one of their greatest physical gifts, Regatuna Studio, to their children later in the future.
So how far will they go? No one knows.